surface warfare officer

anonymous asked:

Hi there! I hope you are doing super well! I’m writing a novel w/ a character who attended the USNA in the early 80s followed by serving in the Navy & then moving into politics. I have two main questions (although I might follow up with more if you don't mind) 1) If he decided to re-up after his initial 8 year commitment, how long would he most likely be offered? If it matters at all, his 8 would be up in 1995 2) If he graduated w/ a degree in Poli Sci, what sort of position might he end up in?

1.  The 8 year commitment is a little bit of a misnomer; USNA grads are only required to spend 5 years on active duty after graduation; the balance of the time is in the reserves.  As an officer, you actually serve until you resign or fail to promote to the next rank in the required time period.  Enlisted sailors are on a contract where they sign on for an additional 3-4 years or so (depending on their rate and the needs of the Navy), but officers are treated a little differently.

For how long the character stays in, it’ll also depend upon what his job in the Navy is.  If he’s a surface warfare officer (SWO), once you complete your initial obligation (generally two sea tours and a shore tour), if you choose to stay in, you go to Department Head School up at the Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) and then onto two department head tours.  You do sign a contract for that, because the Navy gives SWOs a bonus to stay in and do two department head tours.  Finishing those puts you around the 10 year or so mark, at which point you pretty much have to decide if you’re sticking around or plugging it out to make 20.

Aviators and Submariners have a similar process after the minimum obligation, but the years involved are a little different due to flight school and nuc school, respectively.  I believe both have bonuses that require you to stay in for another sea tour or two if you take them, though.  For restricted line officers or non-line officers, I admit that I have no idea.  Either way, you’re “up or out” around the 10 year mark if you don’t promote to Lieutenant Commander.  Promotions before that are automatic at specific times (2 years to make LTJG and 2 more to make LT), but higher tenure for a LT is 10 years.  

2.  The Navy is a funny place when it comes to your degree and your job.  Although he’d have a harder time being a submariner or an aviator with a non-STEM degree (the billets are competitive, and you get extra points for STEM degrees), he could become one if he had really good grades and took enough extra courses to get him through the rigors of nuc school or flight school.  That said, with a PS degree, he’s much more likely to become a SWO.  

This is where I can really speak with some authority, because I graduated with a history degree, and I was a SWO.  For SWOs, your first position will always be on a ship (you might go to a school or two first, but you’re always going to sea, since that’s the crux of the profession).  I arrived on my first ship…only to find that I was now an Engineer.  Oops.

Long story short, newly minted ensigns get jobs according to the needs of the Navy.  My first ship needed a new Repair Division officer, so there I went.  I became the Damage Control Assistant (DCA) within a year or so, and then ended up becoming the Auxiliaries Officer when our actual AUXO got hurt.  All with my shiny history degree.  Learning Engineering was hard for me, but not impossible; in the end, I did pretty well.  

Most SWOs leave their first ship after 20-24 months and go onto a second ship, where they’ll have a different job.  You pretty much never have the same job twice, so if you were an Engineer the first time around, you end up as a “Topsider” (Operations, Weapons, or Combat Systems–Supply Officers aren’t SWOs; the’re Supply Corps) on your second ship.  Then you’ll go to shore duty, which is where your character might decide to get out, or he’d have to stick around for two department head tours.  Those will probably be in the same job; the needs of the Navy sometimes win, but you often stay in the same area.

Come to think of it, I do think that USNA grads can go into the Supply Corps; we NROTC types couldn’t when I graduated, but I think the USNA guys and gals can.  I’m not so solid on their career progression, though.  He could also be a SEAL, but I’d shy away from that in your shoes–if it’s not the point of the story, him being a SEAL is pretty cliched by a thousand other novels. has a great page on Naval Officer career progressions if you want more details.  The page says ROTC, but it’s the same for both once you graduate.  Here’s another link from the same site with some more details, too.


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Recently, I received one of the oddest Tumblr Anonymous messages I’ve received in a while. It wasn’t necessarily brutal, nor was it anything I haven’t heard in varying forms before, but it said: “Okay. You’ve had your 15 minutes of fame. Time to give up the crusade and return to the real world.”

And I wasn’t going to say anything about it, right? It was anonymous - the person wasn’t even brave enough to show me any identity, just some random troll. No big deal. I’ve heard worse. But then some things happened today and I want to talk about it.

I sat in the back of a room of people at a conference, and once I looked around, I saw more than a handful of individuals in uniform. The panel was “Opportunity and Diversity in the US Armed Forces” and they were, when I walked in, talking about transgender service - on how to be a fully inclusive military. There were two JAG Officers speaking - a Navy Lieutenant Commander and an Air Force Captain, a former Army medic who now does big time EEOC work in the civilian side, and a former Naval Surface Warfare Officer who now does both nursing and practices law (and happens to be transgender).

I braced myself, knowing that for the first time since March, I was surrounded by military individuals who probably have seen their fair share of transgender service members files…but the conversation was positive. It was “How can we get this changed? What can we do to help our military? How do we make this a safer place for our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen?”


I say all of this in response to the above ignorance because this isn’t my crusade. Would it be easier if it were just me striking out alone and I was the only person who cared about this issue? In some ways, yeah. Because then I would know there weren’t hundreds of thousands of transgender veterans who feel the same way I do right now. I would know that there aren’t 15,000 actively serving transgender service members who feel the same way I felt. But mostly, I am thrilled I’m not the only one because this is an issue that requires all hands on deck to get it changed. This is an issue that requires people to get angry. To get emotional. To get all sorts of fired up about it.

And we do.

There are definitely days where it gets hard. It gets damn hard to have to rehash this experience over and over and over again. It gets hard sometimes to even be reminded that I’m transgender. To be reminded that because I am transgender, it cost me everything I had worked for. Sometimes, I forget why I do this at all.

And then a Surface Warfare Officer who left the service long before her time should have been up, to begin to truly pursue the meaning of the values we still live by - honor, courage, and commitment - gives me her Officer’s crest.

And I am reminded of why I do this.

The military trains us to fight - all different kinds of battles…and crusades, if you will.

You damn well better believe we’re going to do what we were trained to do.

Navyspeak 101

Understanding Navyspeak is hard.  Writing it is even harder.  One of the novels I’m working on is set in a navy-heavy World War III, and I sometimes find myself having to translate things into Navyspeak.  I spent 10+ years in this life, and if I’m having to do that, I can only imagine how weird our “language” might seem to an outsider!

So, here’s a list of things that Sailors call Sailors.   We’re not generally very polite people, Sailors.  And we call one another all kinds of nicknames - although most of them are in good humor.  Some of them are even affectionate, though you’ll be hard pressed to get a sailor to admit to that.

The terms on this list are predominately from the US Navy, but I do think some of them are universal, at least in English-speaking navies.

Things Sailors call Each Other (and Themselves)

“Knuckledragger”: someone who does more manual labor than “smart” work, such as a boatswain’s mate or a machinist’s mate.  Generally derogatory.

“Blueshirt”: an Enlisted Sailor E-6 and below.  Named for the blue shirts on the dungaree uniform.

“Khaki”: an Officer or Chief Petty Officer (E-7 and above)

“Bubblehead”: What other people call submariners.  

“Brown shoe”: how surface and sub sailors refer to aviators and those who work in aviation.  

“Black shoe” is how aviators refer to Surface Warfare Officers and Chief Petty Officers.  Often just said as “Shoe”.

“Skimmer”: how sub sailors refer to surface sailors.

“Guns”: A nickname for a Gunner’s Mate.

“Wheels”: nickname for a Quartermaster

“Boats”: nickname for a Boatswain’s Mate.

“Weather Guessers”: nickname for Aerographers Mate, aka meteorology

“Doc”: nickname for a corpsman, who enlisted, not an actual doctor.

“Baby Doc”: nickname for junior corpsmen

“Turd Chaser”: nickname for Hull Technicians, who also own/fix the sewage (CHT) system on board.

“Sparky”: nickname for Electrician’s Mates (I haven’t seen this used in years).

“A-Ganger”: Someone who works in the Auxiliary Division. Often Enginemen, sometimes Machinists’ Mates.

“Cranks”: Nowadays, properly known as FSAs, or Food Service Attendants.  These are (usually) new Sailors who are taking their turn helping out in the galley with food preparation and serving.

“Chop”: Supply Officers

“Rotorhead”: Helicopter pilots.

“Aredales”: Aviators

“Spooks”: Intelligence types

“Coastie”: Coast Guard sailors.  Not usually meant in a mean way.

“Nukes”: Nuclear power types (officers and enlisted both)

“Liberty Hound”: Someone who can’t wait to go on liberty, or leave work at the end of the day.

“Rack Monster”: Someone who spends a lot of time in their rack (bunk).  Related is the “Horizontal Deployment Accelerator”, which is your rack.

“Sea Lawyer”: Someone who always tries to find a loophole in the regulations to get away with something.

“Yardbird”: a shipyard worker.  These days, they’re usually civilians.

“Gator Sailors”: Sailors on Amphibious warships

“Shellback”: Someone who has crossed “the line”, aka the equator

“Golden Shellback”: Someone who has crossed the equator at the 180thmeridian.

“Wog” or “Slimy Wog”: Someone who has not crossed the equator.  Also known as a “Pollywog”.

“Snipe”: an engineer

“Snake Eater”: special forces

“Deployment boyfriend/girlfriend”: A shipboard romance that’s only going to last the 6-8 months of deployment.  These relationships are often “friends with benefits” or end in really ugly ways.

“Oscar”: man overboard – hopefully a dummy and not a real person.

“Dad”:  The Captain, or Commanding Officer (CO).  Generally not to his/her face.  

“Mom”: The Executive Officer (XO), or second-in-command. Definitely not to his/her face.

“Shit Screen”: Someone (usually senior) who is screening everyone else from the fallout of some mess or a superior officer’s ire.

“Sea Daddy” or “Sea Mommy”: A senior officer or senior enlisted who is shepherding someone’s career along and looking out for them.  

“Seaman Schmuckatelli” or sometimes “Seaman Timmy”: Your generic example of a usually assed up Sailor.

“Shipmate”: Not a good thing to call someone. This is usually used sarcastically, such as “Hey, Shipmate” to point out someone has screwed up or is otherwise worthless.


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Sail the seas with ScriptSailor!

Hello everyone!  I was previously one of the Navy Mods (LT Robin4) over on @scriptsoldier, but we’ve decided to split out a ScriptSailor blog since we got so many Navy questions.

I am a 10+ year veteran of the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer.  The bulk of my knowledge is on surface ships, so I may reach out for help on non-surface questions (particularly for our aviation brethren - I can speak helo fairly well, but you fixed wing guys are a mystery to me!).  You can read all about me on my About Me page if you want more details.  

I’m also an amateur writer, currently working on two novels, including a Navy-based WWIII future novel that I hope to get published after I get off my butt and edit it.  I’m blunt and I’m outspoken, and I’ll try not to sound too much like the proverbial Sailor in my posts.

So, batteries release!  (Or, in normal speak, the ask box is open.)